John Baldry – “It Ain’t Easy”

The Sleeve:
105_5202-1 105_5204

The Liner/Sleeve Notes:
He has been called Long John Baldry for most of his life, possibly because he’s 6 feet 7 inches tall and sometimes wears hats that brush the ceilings. He’s very famous and successful and has a history throughout England and most of the civilized wolf – except America.
 Back in 1961, before the Beatles were the Beatles, John Baldry was a folk singer for four years, touring England with Ramblin’ Jack Eilliott (a hero over there himself). In 1962 John Baldry stopped being a folk singer when he found Alex Koerner and formed Blues Inc. It was the first electric white blues band anyone had ever seen in England, and John thinks it might have been the first anywhere. Blues Inc. featured Charlie Watts on drums and a slender fellow named Mick Jagger doing backup vocals.
 John spent most of 1962 in Germany for reasons unknown, after which he returned to England to join Syril David All Stars, which lasted until 1964 when John founded the Hoochie Coochie Men. Rod Stewart was the vocalist.
 The H.C. Men disbanded in 1965, whereupon John teamed up with Rod again and Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll (the latter two became members of the Brian Auger Trinity). Drummer Mickey Waller (Jeff Beck Group most recently), guitarist Vic Briggs (until two years ago guitarist with Eric Burden’s Animals). This amalgamation was christened Steam Packet. 
 Each group seemed to last one year, through no one’s fault or design. In 1966 the group became Bluesology, John hired a young organist/pianist called Reg Dwight, who later combined the names of Elton Dean, Bluesology sax player, with John Baldry’s name and came up with Elton John.
 In 1968 John Baldry abandoned the idea of a group and started making pop records with lush orchestrations by Tony Macauley. And it was then that he became huge. Housewives everywhere loved him and bought his records by the millions. He did a Royal Command Performance and crooned on countless television shows. “Let the Heartaches Begin” was his biggest, the year’s fastest-selling single in England. It rested Number One in the English charts for weeks, and only the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” dislodged it.
 Early in 1971 John Baldry signed with Warner Bros. and returned to his blues/rock roots, “although I never really left them. I was never a Perry Como type.” John prefers to compare his pop experience with that of Brook Benton of O.C. Smith.
 Side one of this album was produced by old friend Rod Stewart, Side Two by old friend Elton John. This is his first album released in the U.S. since the now out-of-print Long John’s Blues, recorded with the Hoochie Coochie Men and released by United Artists in 1964.
 It Ain’t Easy is the eighth of ninth musical incarnation of John Baldry, which awesome quantity has been ably countered here with awesome quality.
 – Judith Sims

Personal Review:
 This album was actually a birthday gift on my 21st from my mom, it’s a neat find if I do say so myself. Time to listen!

 The album opens with a spoken word intro, while someone plays piano in the back, it’s John talking about the start of his career. Oh, and he pronounces “boogie-woogie” as “boogee-woogee“. Then the track “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie-Woogie On the King of Rock and Roll” follows up and begins the album – and god, that is a long ass title. Well, the song kicks off a great start to the album definitely some pure grooving music! It makes for an amazing opening track, after that comes “Black Girl” – which has been covered by Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Dolly Parton & Nirvana. John’s version features Maggie Bell doing the female part of the song, and this song is pretty great to say the least, I thought Nirvana’s version was the best, but this one is pretty amazing! After that comes “It Ain’t Easy” – which would later be covered by David Bowie on his album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” – and well, John’s version ain’t quite as good as Bowie, but it’s still pretty darn great. Maggie’s backing vocals are also quite impressive. Oh, and that piano playing at the end is pretty sweet too. After that comes “Morning, Morning” – and it reminds me of a Tim Buckley song, oddly. This album hasn’t left me unimpressed yet! The A-Side ends with “I’m Ready” and there has only been a few blues albums that I’ve actually enjoyed, this just so happens to be one of them! The musicianship is superb, but then again, look at who produced this album – of course the backing musicians are amazing.

 The B-Side opens with the track “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” and all the tracks on the B-Side feature Elton John on piano and organ. This song is a pretty strong opening track to the album. It’s not bad or anything! After that comes “Mr. Rubin” which definitely has Elton’s signature piano playing on it. Well, it’s a slower song, but I definitely have fallen in love with this whole album so far, it was definitely another great birthday find for me from my mom. “Rock Me When He’s Gone” comes up next, and you know, it’s another pretty good track, the musicianship is absolutely amazing too! The backing vocals are the best, the whole girl group thing the backing vocalists got make it so good! The album ends with the song “Flying” and it makes for an excellent ending track to a terrific album – it was a great listen vocally, lyrically and musically. Thank you Elton John and Rod Stewart for putting this album together.

Interesting Facts:
None.

Track Listing:
A1 – Conditional Discharge
A2 – Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll
A3 – Black Girl
A4 – It Ain’t Easy
A5 – Morning, Morning
A6 – I’m Ready

B1 – Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield
B2 – Mr. Rubin
B3 – Rock Me When He’s Gone
B4 – Flying

Label:
Warner Bros. Records

Catalog Number:
WS 1921

Studio Musicians & Other Album Credits:
Guitars – Ron Wood, Sam Mitchell, Caleb Quaye & Joshuah M’Bupo
Piano – Ian Armitt & Elton John
Tenor Sax – Alan Skidmore
Bass – Rikki Brown & Dave Glover
Drums – Mickie Waller & Roger Pope
Vocal Chorus – Lesley Duncan, Madelene Bell, Doris Troy, Kay Garner, Liza Strike, Tony Burrows, Tony Hazzard & Roger Cook
Choirmistress – Lesley Duncan
12-String Guitar – John Baldry & Rod Wood
Dobro Steel Guitar, 6-String Guitar & Slide Guitar – Sam Mitchell
Mandolin – Ray Jackson
Female Voice – Maggie Bell
Electric Guitar – Ron Wood
Organ – Caleb Quaye
Tambourine – Madelene Bell
Produced by Rod Stewart & Elton John
Executive Producer & Purser – Jimi Horowitz
Art Direction – Ed Thrasher

Other Albums I Own by John Baldry:
None.

Released:
1971

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